Park City Film October screenings emphasize diversity
What: Park City Film October weekend screenings
When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 6 p.m. Sundays
Where: Park City Library’s Jim Santy Auditorium, 1255 Park Ave.
Cost: $8 for general admission and $7 for students and seniors
Diversity and representation are a couple of the themes that run through the casts and stories of Park City Film’s October screenings, says Executive Director Katharine Wang.
The topics of culture, race and goals emerge through the films’ casts, visions and storylines, she said.
“At Park City Film, we make sure we are presenting a diversity of films, and this is something that we take seriously,” she said. “This is what the place of an art house theater is in any community.”
October’s weekend screenings will kick off Friday through Sunday, Oct. 4-6, with Matchstick Productions’ ski film, “Return to Sender.” Tickets are $15.
The cast includes four diverse skiers — big mountain-veteran Mark Abma, who has been skiing since his teens; innovator Karl Fostvedt, known for his urban skiing, a style of skiing that utilizes sliding or grinding skis on stair rails and walls; rookie Sam Kuch, recipient of the 2018 International Functional Fitness Federation’s Discovery of the Year Award; and Logan Pehota — the son of ski-film regular Eric Pehota — who wants to carry on his father’s legacy, according to Wang.
The film was shot in western North America – – British Columbia in Canada, Squaw Valley, California, and Sun Valley, Idaho, and tells the stories of how they got into skiing, she said.
Some of the athletes will attend the Friday screening and sign autographs, Wang said. The night will also feature giveaways and opportunity drawings.
“It’s always fun to kick off the season with a great ski film,” Wang said. “It’s a way to bring the community together and celebrate life in a ski town.”
The second weekend screening on Oct. 11-13 is Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell,” which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
The film, a fictionalized account of one of the filmmaker’s own experiences, is about a Chinese-American girl, played by Awkwafina, whose family travels to China to visit her grandmother who has been diagnosed with cancer.
“The culture in China frowns upon giving people bad news, so the family opts not to tell the grandmother she’s dying, but still wants to be with her,” said Katharine Wang, who is not related to the filmmaker. “So they devise a plan where they can celebrate her before she dies.”
“The Farewell” is about the clash between traditional Chinese and American culture, but also about the love of family, Wang said.
More significantly, “The Farewell,” which features an all-Asian cast, has made nearly $18 million so far, according to Box Office Mojo.
“What’s exciting to see in films like ‘The Farewell’ is the larger conversation in the filmmaking community about representation on the screen, and making sure what is there reflects the diversity of the communities we live in,” Wang said. “What’s been great is the reception of these types of films have been fantastic, and there is clearly a market for films that allows people to experience something that is quite different than they are used to.”
Diversity doesn’t just mean ethnicity, though. Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz’s “Peanut Butter Falcon,” which will screen Oct. 18-20, features Zack Gottsagen, an actor with Down syndrome.
“A lot of the conversations of inclusions have not really factored in people with different abilities,” Wang said. “We usually have able-bodied actors play roles of people with different abilities, but it’s different in this film. Zack authentically plays this role.”
“Peanut Butter Falcon” is about Zak, a young man with Down syndrome who escapes from a nursing home because he wants to enroll in a pro wrestling academy.
“He meets a ne’er do well played by Shia LaBeouf, and they travel down the Mississippi River on a raft,” Wang said.
Wang was thrilled to screen this film because Park City Film brought in a documentary called “Becoming Bulletproof” three years ago that also featured Gottsagen.
“That was a documentary about a film camp for actors and filmmakers of all abilities,” she said. “Zack was one of the people in the film, and he said one of his aspirations is to become an actor. So it’s awesome to see him three years later accomplish that dream.”
The final weekend screening of October is Paul Downs Colaizzo’s comedy, “Brittany Runs a Marathon.”
The film, another 2019 Sundance selection that will run Oct. 25-27, is about an out-of-shape woman played by Jillian Bell who needs to get her life together, so she sets a goal to run the New York Marathon.
The film also includes a side story about how society treats someone who is overweight, Wang said.
“The film is about believing in yourself so you can achieve your goals,” she said. “And I think everyone can relate to how painful it can be to try to get back into shape. … It’s quite interesting to see how the character balances that with her transition.”
Park City Film has striven to address representation more and more over the past six years, Wang said.
“We really want to expand our reach into the community with these relatable stories, and expand our value as an art house film theater,” she said. “When we look at the value of bringing stories like this to our community, it helps us learn to appreciate the diversity we have. These films also help audiences develop empathy for storylines they may not know too much about.”
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